Romance scammers utilize online dating and social media websites to meet their victims, develop a relationship and eventually steal personal information or con them in to sending money. The Better Business Bureau reports victims in the US and Canada have reported losing nearly $1 billion over the last three years and suspect that many additional instances have gone unreported.
How it works:
Connecting with Victims – Romance scammers use online dating websites, Facebook and other social media to create fake profiles. They meet their victims and quickly suggest additional forms of communication like email or text.
Grooming – The scammer takes time, sometimes months, to interact and learn about the victim via email, phone, text and webcam to build trust. They often claim to be traveling overseas or in the military to explain why they can’t meet in person. The scammer also works towards isolating a victim from their friends and family so they don’t have help when making decision as the scam develops.
The Sting - The scammer will ask for money, usually for an emergency or a plane ticket to finally meet, and will say that they cannot access their bank account since they are traveling internationally. If the victim sends money, the scammer will find reasons to continue asking for more.
Continued Fraud - Once a victim realizes what happened, a new scam has developed pretending to assist the victim in reclaiming their money. A fake law enforcement official claims the scammer has been caught and the victims can pay spend several thousand dollars in fees to get their money back. The original scammer also sometimes reaches out to admit that the “relationship” started as a scam but then claim they actually fell in love, and continue with the scam.
How To Protect Yourself:
- Never send money or provide personal information to someone you’ve never met in person.
- Do your research. Many scammers steal online photos to use in their profiles. You can do a reverse image lookup using a website like tineye.com or images.google.com to see if the photos on a profile are stolen from somewhere else. You can also search online for a profile name, email, or phone number to see if anything looks suspicious.
- If you believe you have been the victim of a Romance Scam contact customer service and they will work with you to protect your accounts from further fraudulent activity. First Hawaiian Bank’s 24-hour Customer Service is available at 844-4444 (from Oahu) or toll free at (888) 844-4444.
Read more about the Better Business Bureau’s Online Romance Scams study.